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totally top three: august 2020

It’s September! 2020! Already! Jesus! Hi! This is your reminder to please donate to mutual aid funds if you’re able! Wash your hands! Wear a mask! Stay safe! Stay sane! I love you! A lot!


I’ve been on a country kick lately — unfortunately I am now truly midwestern, rip the cool version of me — that started because I listened to Bonnie Raitt’s entire discography and then the Old 97s — one of the only contemporary country artists I listened to when I was still cool — dropped an album in my lap! And it’s great. This is really classic country storytelling and it feels very alt-Texas. I’m partial to “This House Got Ghosts,” “I Like You Better,” “Belmont Hotel,” “Our Year,” “Bottle Rocket Baby,” and “Why Don’t We Ever Say We’re Sorry,” which, you know, is most of the album, so they must be doing something right.


One of my personal projects this year has been to try to get into poetry because I’ve never read beyond what I absolutely had to when I was in college/grad school and that seems unfair to a whole bunch of writers! It has been… a largely fruitless endeavor because my brain just isn’t designed for it honestly, but I ordered Kimmy Walters’ new collection The Faraway [review!] and ended up loving a bunch of the poems in it, including “zeitgeist wants me in its mouth” and ten others I took pictures of to reread at whim.


Tomasz Jedrowski’s Swimming in the Dark [review!] was lovely and achy and richly written. It was really nice to drop into a time and place I haven’t encountered often before and see it rendered in a complex and interesting way whiles spending time with a narrator that I cared deeply about.


And three to look forward to…

unpregnant   rituals of mine, hype nostalgia   the boys in the band

totally top three: july 2020

It’s August! 2020! Holy fucking shit! Hi! This is your reminder to please donate to mutual aid funds if you’re able! Wash your hands! Wear a mask! Stay safe! Stay sane! I love you! A lot!


The only thing I had the energy to watch this month is a Fox TV show about baseball that was canceled in 2016. Well, I also watched a lot of hockey when it came back and a couple of baseball games, but stuff with an emotional arc? Plot? Don’t know ’em, couldn’t handle them if I did. Anyway, we did watch most of Pitch and genuinely loved it and the only reason we haven’t finished it is because we’re trying to ~savor what we have. I can’t believe this wasn’t a huge hit, every moment of it is pretty great and everyone is beautiful and also baseball? What’s not to like?


My two most listened playlists in July were Aspen Aspen‘s Black Country Matters and Jeremy Andrew Hunter (aka Ska Tune Network)’s LGBTQ SKA BANDS because they both rip and have introduced me to a bunch of artists I wouldn’t have probably otherwise found. One of the best things about Spotify aside from The Algorithm is that if I have an errant thought about a playlist I want to hear, there is already one waiting for me. These two are some of the best I’ve heard this year. (Yes, ska is good, actually. Shut it.)


The Old Guard was really fun! I liked all the characters and the universe it built and I thought the action was all pretty fun and the setup for a sequel was solid. I’d definitely watch another two hours of Charlize Theron and KiKi Layne kicking absolute ass with an occasional detour where two incredibly beautiful men say deeply loving and romantic things to each other if it was available to me.


And three to look forward to…

syed m. masood, more than just a pretty face   kiesza, crave   open 24 hours

totally top three: may 2020

Black lives matter. If you think that statement needs a qualifier or a rebuttal, I am begging you to interrogate why you think that. Start learning and start helping. Amplify, donate, do good.

I thought about skipping this post entirely because it’s hard to talk about trivial things when massive, important things are happening in the world, but these posts are important to me and I hope, sometimes valuable to you, if you’re looking for stuff to get into. People need escapism and that escapism is always inherently easier for me because I’m white. Black people rarely have that luxury.

I try to do better by reading, watching, and listening to more things produced by people of color. I am going to work even harder at that now. Reading theory is extremely important even when it’s hard, but engaging with pleasurable content about and most importantly by people of color is incredibly powerful too. Fiction teaches us empathy and diverse fiction teaches us to empathize cross-culturally.

That said, all three of my faves were pretty fucking white this month. You can’t do better without acknowledging where you haven’t done great, right?


Sarah Henstra’s We Contain Multitudes really fucked me up in a way that I needed. I already wrote a sizeable review, so here I just want to say that I am a big crier in general. I cry at happy things and sad things and frustration and anger and pretty much constantly. I’m easily moved and I have a lot of emotions and emotional problems. But pretty much the second isolation started, I dried up. I wanted to cry; I needed to cry, but I just couldn’t, no matter what, and it was starting to make me feel awful. I needed some catharsis, you know? This book was the first thing to unlock me in 70+ days and god, was it satisfying.

Crystal’s been trying to get me to watch Field of Dreams for most of the course of our relationship so that I could be adequately horny about Ray Liotta’s version of Shoeless Joe Jackson with her, but I finally gave in because a friend and MFA classmate said I needed to watch it because it’s a weird as hell premise that everyone just accepts, which is one of my favorite things in the world and I wasn’t disappointed! It genuinely moved me — We watched it after I’d been unstoppered by We Contain Multitudes and I teared up! It felt amazing! — and it is another piece of evidence in how hideously backwards we’ve gone in the last thirty years. The protagonists stand up against book banning! And it’s presented as an absolute truth instead of an opinion. Also, it really is a weird as hell premise and everyone just accepts it and rolls with it. Refreshing.

Orville Peck’s “No Glory in the West” has also made me cry a whole bunch since it came out both because I identify with and am deeply moved by the isolation in the music video, but also because his beautiful, warbling voice reaches the dark, sad places inside of me and opens them up to the light. There are lots of talented queer people (and people of color and women!) making contemporary country music even if it’s sometimes hard to find, but Peck’s hits me in a way I couldn’t have expected, the parts of me that are married to the prairie where I live go deeper than I knew, I think, and I am grateful for the way his music makes me feel seen.


And three to look forward to…

bethany c. morrow, a song below water   run the jewels 4   miss juneteenth

totally top three: april 2020

Remember how March was approximately 12.5 years long? Remember how April wasn’t even like, its normal number of days long? What the hell is that about?


In March, even before isolation started, I changed the configuration of how I use Spotify on my desktop computer at work and home so that I could see the little Friend Activity tab while I was doing other things and started sort of paying attention to what people were listening to, partly because I’m p voyeuristic by nature, partly because I thought it might be funny (I feel about 97% confident that I know a complete stranger’s sex playlist now!) and I ended up getting super into it and playing Spotify Chase while dicking around on the internet and half-assing something I’m supposed to be doing.

By Spotify Chase, I mean, hitting the songs that people are listening to that I don’t know and adding to them my queue and seeing what’s what. I canNOT recommend it enough as both a way to get to know friends and strangers better, but also because you will find some jams! And a lot of them will probably not be anything you would have found otherwise! Unless all your friends are boring or have identical taste to you, I guess, but that’s a You Problem, so sort that shit out on your own time.

ANYWAY, I have discovered a lot of jams this way!

The first album it gave to me is 070 Shake’s Modus Vivendi which is not something that the algorithm could have served me, so big thanks to the kid I went to high school with but only interacted with maybe twice and I don’t think liked me AT ALL, but for some reason has been my friend on various internet platforms post-graduation all the way back to like, XANGA. Also, I’ve seen Ryland Blackinton listening to it like, three times now, so that’s got to be a good sign.

The album is great, chill and artful and with a nice pace from beginning to end and it’s somehow something that I can both put on and forget about and something I can pay attention to the entire way through. That’s magic, man.

It also gave me Atoms for Peace, AMOK, which is a Thom Yorke fronted ~supergroup project from 2013 that I don’t think would have ever reached me algorithmically based on how much I don’t listen to Radiohead. This is also a well-paced album that I can drift with or focus on, but the real star is “Ingenue” which I have listened to on repeat for long stretches of time more than once.

My last album for the month — because I truly didn’t manage to do… anything in all of April except listen to music and write 50k words that will never actually go anywhere — was not served to me by either the Algorithm or Spotify Chase, but instead is an old fave’s new one I was greatly anticipating. Pokey LaFarge’s Rock Bottom Rhapsody is so, so, so good and satisfying. It feels almost like a movie score except it also feels like it’s telling a story. we were supposed to be seeing Pokey in June in Minneapolis, but it’s been rescheduled for 2021 already, which seems so far away as to be impossible, while also seeming so soon as to be hopelessly optimistic about the state of things. Life and art in quarantine, eh?


And three to look forward to…

the half of it   mia mercado, weird but normal   valley girl

totally top three: march 2020

Ho-ho-holy shit what a fucking month! I know there was like, absolutely no way to anticipate what 2020 would be like, but like, good god damn, what the hell, you know? Whooeee.

Here is some stuff that I managed to enjoy despite of or in fact possibly because I’m not currently leaving my house very often and don’t like, have much to do besides work and consume media, just like before except now I waste less time getting dressed and I’m always with my dog. I hope this finds you safe and healthy and as sane as you can be. <3


I had a great time plowing through Roni Simunovic’s Little Warlord which was just fast and fun and easy to read and sweet and satisfying. I said in my review that it’s like if mob movies were made for someone other than white guys and I stand behind that almost a month later. There are a lot of really likable characters in this and a lot of gentleness for a universe that could just have easily disposed of it entirely. Glad I found this when I did.


The highest compliment I can give I Am Not Okay With This is that we haven’t finished it yet, despite there being only a single season, because we like it so much and didn’t want to rush through and then just be out of it. Sophia Lillis, Wyatt Olef, and Sofia Bryant are all really great and I love the place-making and especially the set-dressing, the way everything feels a little out of date and the only difference between it being in a good way or a bad way is how the characters compose themselves around it. I love the music a lot and the dialogue is fantastic and the second highest compliment I can give it is that Crystal and I have both paused it to scream about how much it sounds like something I would write, which is narcissistic probably, but also true.


We also started watching Letterkenny, which we have also been savoring as slowly as possible and which we also pause to scream about constantly, but for entirely different reasons, the first of which is that we live in in like, American Letterkenny Lite (though the people of Letterkenny are consistently better people than I’ve ever experienced here) and the second of which is that every fucking thing about it is weird and hysterical in a perfect way. If you had told me in February that I would sometimes pause a sitcom about Canadian hicks to yell about the way they’ve staged a particular shot for Maximum Art, I would have scoffed. It’s also really funny to watch something that’s really stylized and goofy and feel weirdly represented and safe as a queer person. Everyone is so good at embodying these really weird, extreme characters and they all seem like they’re just committing every second they’re on screen. Every thing that comes out of Jared Keeso’s mouth is the funniest thing I’ve heard in my life. It’s also masterful at knowing exactly how hard to push a repetitive joke so that it always sails through the funny-too much-funny again-hysterical track every freaking time. I finally upgraded to ad-free Hulu to be able to watch this without interruption: I six-extra-dollars-a-month love it.


And three to look forward to…

grady hendrix, the southern book club's guide to slaying vampires   pokey lafarge, rock bottom rhapsody   promising young woman